"Funny, empathetic, and wise. Gillespie shines a light into dark corners we need to examine, but somehow manages to entertain us at the same time. A fantastic read." - Susan M. Boyer, USA Today Bestselling Author of Lowcountry Boil
The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells' Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she's trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.
Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you'll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you'll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.
What's a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.
Related subjects include: chick lit, women's fiction, humor, humorous fiction, Southern humor, Southern living, friendship.
Books by Karin Gillespie:
• BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR (#1)
• A DOLLAR SHORT (#2)
• DOLLAR DAZE (#3)
• GIRL MEETS CLASS, A Novel
Part of the Henery Press Chick Lit Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...
Karin Gillespie is national bestselling author of five novels and a humor columnist for Augusta Magazine. Her nonfiction writing had been in the New York Times, The Writer Magazine and Romantic Times. She maintains a website and blog at Karingillespie.net. Sign up for her newsletter on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The unspooling of my Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle began with a trip to the Luckett County Jail. It was mid-July in Rose Hill, Georgia, and I was trapped in the backseat of a police car. The air inside was close and thick like sawmill gravy. Up front the radio crackled and hissed with static as the dispatcher announced the city's Thursday night dark doings: a mugging, a domestic disturbance, and a pit bull fight.
"Don't you people have an armed robbery or a murder to go to?"
No response from behind the mesh barrier. Might as well have been a mute mosquito.
The law enforcement center loomed over the hill, a tombstone-colored tower leaking a sickly, yellow light. First time I laid eyes on the place I scared myself silly, imagining strip searches, filthy cells, and sadistic wardens. This time the sight barely made me flinch.
Here we go again, I thought.
We arrived, and the cops hustled me out of the car and into a processing room. It contained a haphazard collection of utilitarian desks and smelled like dirty feet. A stout policewoman lumbered toward me. She had a gray front tooth and a sprig of hair creeping out of her nostril. I wasn't her typical customer, and she was sizing me up.
I tried to see myself through her eyes: A twenty-one-year-old blonde, blinking and stumbling in the harsh fluorescent lights, wearing a strapless pink party dress, gold gladiator sandals, and diamond drop earrings.
Maybe she was imagining what kind of car I drove — a cherry-red Porsche Boxster convertible — or who my people were. Likely she'd heard of my family's company and probably had a few cans of Cornelia's Southern-Style lima beans or black-eyed peas collecting dust in her pantry. Most everyone in America did.
I was photographed and fingerprinted. The cop confiscated my python clutch and peered at the contents, a lipstick in a plum shade called Promiscuous and a Platinum Visa in the name of Toni Lee Wells. If only I could give her that card and make my latest blunder go away.
She glanced up from my clutch and gave me a look that could freeze vodka. It seemed to say, "I don't care who you are, princess. Now you belong to me."
The cop gestured for me to follow her. We were headed in the opposite direction of the holding cells. For a brief panicky moment I wondered if she was taking me to some secret dark room where repeat offenders were taught a lesson with a rubber hose. Instead I was led to a dank narrow hallway with a stone bench. "Sit," she said. "Someone's on the way to pick you up."
I was relieved, naturally, but also curious. Who was coming? It's not like I'd called anyone. After a few minutes my father approached, wearing a pair of wrinkled camouflage pants and a John Deere cap.
Daddy hugged me with his meaty arms, wrapping me in his scent, oak chips mixed with perspiration. The embrace went on for more than a minute. It was as if I'd been released from a ten-year stay in a Turkish prison instead of a brief jaunt to jail.
"Let's get out of here," he said.
Outside bloated clouds scudded overhead; the sky seemed close enough to touch. A jacked-up, emerald-green Cadillac roared past us, its frame shimmying with the bass from a rap song. I climbed into the refuge of my daddy's Land Rover. His yellow Lab, Beau, pounced on my lap and bathed my cheeks with warm, liver-snap scented saliva.
"How'd you know I was here?"
My daddy's freckled scalp shone through his thinning red hair. "Sibbie Stevens saw you being put into the back of a police car outside Bistro 91. Public intoxication, Toni Lee? What did you do?"
"Nothing. Just fell asleep. That's not a crime."
Not unless you were operating heavy equipment, which I wasn't. Just my iPhone a few minutes before I passed out.
"Fell asleep where?"
"In the bar. It was just a little catnap. Don't know why they felt they had to call the law."
That wasn't the whole story, but no need to share all the damning details. Before I hit the ground, I'd been singing along to a Katy Perry song on my phone, maybe a little too loudly and probably off-key. The usual bartender, Rita, was out sick and a snippy substitute was working in her place. The sub asked me to cut out the singing, and I tried to loosen her up by asking her to dance with me. Somehow I ended up knocking over a couple of highball glasses on the bar. Then I got dizzy and the next thing I remember was a cop pulling me up from the floor.
It'd have never happened if Rita had been on duty. Whenever I got a little wobbly in my shoes, she always took good care of me. In exchange I made sure she went home with a nice fat tip tucked into her pocketbook.
No more shots of Cuervo Gold, I thought. I'd only started drinking heavily a few months ago and was still learning the ins and outs of alcohol. Tequila was in a class by itself. No wonder they called it to-kill-ya.
On the way home, my father's silence was so loud he might as well have been yelling at me. I was grateful when his Land Rover sailed through the security checkpoint at the entrance of Country Club Hills. The car came to a stop in front of my condo, and he gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were white.
I broke the silence between us. "I don't know what got into me tonight, but it was a one-time thing. It'll never happen again."
By then I felt completely sober. A trip to jail was a guaranteed buzzkill.
Daddy gave me a hard look. "One-time thing, huh?"
I nodded vigorously.
"That's odd because according to one of the officers you're practically a regular at the jail. Few more trips and they'll be naming a cell after you."
"Two trips hardly makes me a —"
"It's not just that," he continued. "You've been out of control for months. I'm still getting calls about that terrible thing you did to Baby Bowen at Lois Atkins' funeral."
I'd never live that stunt down. Ten years from now people would probably still be talking about what I'd done to Baby Bowen at that funeral.
"Maybe you ought to give that Dr. Lyons another try."
I wrinkled my nose. Dr. Lyons had white carpet in his office and made me take off my shoes before I was given permission to enter. During our visit, he kept squirting Purell into his hands. He seemed crazier than I could ever aspire to be.
Daddy was scratching Beau's ears, waiting for me to speak.
"Forget Dr. Lyons."
He let out a heavy exhale of air.
"I understand why you're acting out like this. Anyone in your situation probably would, and I'm the first to sympathize. But here's the thing —"
"I'm tired. Can we talk about this another time?"
"It's really late. You should get back to bed." I patted his arm. That's when I noticed a faded yellow bruise on his bicep.
"What did you do to yourself this time?" My father was the most accident-prone man I'd ever met. He was forever running into doors or tripping on loose stones. If there was a banana peel within a ten-mile radius he'd find it and slip on it.
"Don't try to change the subject."
I kissed his cheek. "Goodnight, Daddy."
"This is serious."
I mussed his wispy hair and flounced out of the car.
I ignored him and sprinted to my condo, a replica of a three-story Italianate villa divided into six residences.
Inside it was bright and noisy. As usual I'd left on every light, and the television blared with a commercial advertising a Chevy Truck Blow-Out sale. I hurried to the kitchen and popped open a bottle of Zin Your Face, a California Zinfandel. I chose wines with funny names; it made alcohol seem tame and friendly, like Hi-C with a kick. One glass, I thought. I surveyed the contents of my cupboards and chose a brandy snifter the size of a baby's head.
I filled the glass to the brim and moved to the living room, plunked down in front of the large-screen TV, and shoved Texas Chainsaw Massacre into the Blu-ray player. I was addicted to horror movies, the gorier the better. They helped put problems into their proper perspective. Yes, my life might have recently taken an unlucky turn, but at least I wasn't being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. In fact, if I was a shrink and one of my patients was having a meltdown, my advice would be to watch Evil Dead 2 and call me in the morning.
The next day I cracked open one eye. The sharp pain behind my temple told me it was going to be another Goody's Powder morning. I'd fallen asleep on the couch; the clock on my Blu-ray player said it was almost twelve. I'd have liked to stay asleep for a couple more hours but someone was banging on my back door.
"Toni Lee! Are you in there?"
I carefully got up from the couch so as to not disturb the delicate condition of my head. It felt like it was full of broken glass.
The back door was cracked, and a hand was fumbling with the chain. The door swung open, and my best friend Joelle burst inside. Her eyes narrowed into sharp green shards. I was in trouble. How did I mess up this time?
"How much did you drink last night?" she said.
The stripes of her dress looked like they were moving. She had a penchant for animal prints, and today she was passing herself off as a zebra.
"Who says I was drinking?" I peeked into my ceramic coffee jar and found only a pile of crumbs.
"You smell like you took a swan dive into a wine vat ... And you forgot to pick me up from the oral surgeon this morning."
She glared at me. Joelle was just under five feet tall with long, frizzy hair the bright red color of Cheerwine.
"Was that today?"
"There I sat waiting. Lips blown up to the size of a raft. In so much pain I felt like cutting off my head. The nurse kept asking, 'Are you sure someone's coming to get you?' 'Oh yes,' I said. 'Toni Lee might not be the most reliable girl but she would never let me down in my moment of greatest need.'"
I had a good excuse for forgetting Joelle's appointment but decided not to tell her about last night's debauchery. Used to be I'd share everything with her. Lately I'd been doing a lot of editing.
I tried to hang my head but it made me dizzy. "I'm so sorry. Don't know how it slipped my mind but I'll make it up to you."
"How so?" Joelle leaned against a granite island littered with a flotilla of empty Chinese food cartons.
"I could give you my new Prada clutch." I smiled weakly. There were more clutches where that one came from. If I wanted, I could buy a new clutch each month.
"You're blatantly exploiting my pathological weakness for pricey pocketbooks."
She plucked at the strap of her own bag, a small and battered Coach from an outlet mall near Commerce, Georgia.
"Much as I love Prada, I'd rather you keep your promises instead of trying to buy me off."
"I'll work on it."
I was glad she seemed to be in a forgiving mood. To placate her further I suggested lunch at the Rose Hill Country Club. My treat, of course, since Joelle wasn't a member.
We arrived at the country club ladies' grill, a viciously sunny room with picture windows overlooking the deep greens of the golf course. The grill was nearly deserted except for a table of elderly women, and a young couple with a toddler in a sailor suit.
Joelle wagged her fingers at the child and said, "Ahoy matey." She came from a big family — six brothers — and had the motherly instincts of a grizzly bear.
My instincts, on the other hand, were more like a cuckoo bird's. The females trick other species of birds into raising their babies by laying eggs in their nests. Then they fly off, single and unencumbered.
Once seated, the waitress arrived at our table, and I ordered a patty melt and a bloody Mary.
Joelle raised a fiery eyebrow. "Tossing gasoline on the bonfire, are we?"
I smiled, even though facial movement was painful. "I'm in training for spring break."
"That's a long time from now."
"No harm in getting started early."
Joelle's eyes widened, distracted by something behind me.
"What is it?"
"Oh Jesus. You won't believe who just came in."
I sunk down low in my seat. I hadn't run into Baby since the infamous incident at Lois Atkins' funeral.
"Is she armed?"
"Doesn't need to be. She could take you down with one hand tied behind her back."
True enough. Despite her nickname, Baby was over six feet tall and likely wore an F-cup bra. She was huge but had no extraneous adipose tissue. The girl was pure muscle.
"She's headed over here," Joelle said.
"Has she spotted me?" I was tempted to duck under the white linen tablecloth and hide myself.
"I think so. Her face is turning red and there's a violent gleam in her eye."
The air molecules seemed to quiver as Baby headed in our direction. I hoped she was going to stalk past us without speaking, but no such luck. She reached our table and trained a pair of bulging blue eyes on me.
"Listen, Baby, I'm really sorry. I —"
She pointed a cigar-sized finger at me. "You!" she said again.
"Did you get my note of apology? And of course, I'll be happy to pay —"
Baby loomed over me, her face wide as a planet. I shrank away, fearing she'd grab me by the roots of my hair and toss me across the room. Certainly she was entitled. "Everyone's sorry about what happened to you, but maybe it's time you got yourself some professional help." She straightened her spine, pivoted on her schooner-sized shoes and left the grill.
"That was a close one," I said.
I expected Joelle to be quivering with laughter. Instead she was solemnly shaking her head.
"If you don't know, I feel sorry for you."
"You don't even like Baby."
Joelle and Baby had been in the same class at Rose Hill Prep, three grades above me. Joelle was a scholarship student, and Baby never let her forget it.
The sun had lit the strands of Joelle's red hair; it looked as if sparks might fly from her scalp at any moment. "One day you'll go too far. One day something really bad is going to happen to you."
I met her gaze and, in a very soft voice, I said, "Hate to tell you, but the worst has already happened. From here on out everything else is anti-climactic."
An uncomfortable moment of silence followed, and I was grateful when Henrietta — Henry for short — appeared at our table. She was the club's dining room manager. "Ms. Wells, could I have a moment of your time?"
"Sure thing. What can I do you for?"
Henry glanced at Joelle. "Maybe it would be best if we went into the hallway and had a private talk."
"You can talk in front of Joelle. She's like family."
It took Henry a moment to speak. She kept glancing down at her white work clogs and touching a bun pulled so tight I imagined it smarted. She said, "I'm sorry. You no longer have club privileges here."
"I don't understand."
"It's your father," Henry said in a low voice.
"Is he behind on dues?"
Daddy spent wads of money on gambling and sometimes came up short at the end of the month. Usually all he had to do was call my aunt and she'd cover any outstanding debts.
"It's not the dues." Henry blinked rapidly, clearly uneasy with her task. "Earlier this morning your father called to cut off your membership."
"I'm afraid not."
"I don't get it. Why would he ...?"
I thought about last night and how uptight Daddy had been, but to cancel my club membership ... That wasn't like him. He'd never been a strict parent and had always acted more like a buddy than a dad. Then again, until several months ago, I'd been the ideal child.
Was he trying to get my attention? Fine. So long as he didn't involve Aunt Cornelia. That'd be a mistake of mythical proportions.
Henry fidgeted with the collar of her starched white uniform, waiting. I'd always liked her and regretted she had to get mixed up in my family's dramas.
"I'm sorry, Henry. I have no idea why my father would do such a thing but I'll leave right now."
She nodded and returned to the kitchen.
"What was that all about?" Joelle said.
I rifled through my bag for some more Goody's Powder. In the last few seconds my headache had gone from irritating to kill-me-now.
"It's just a misunderstanding. After I drop you at your car, I'll go over to Tranquility Hall and find out what's going on."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Girl Meets Class"
Copyright © 2015 Karin Gillespie.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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